August 13, 2018: Interrogation of the arrested accused by the Maharashtra ATS Raut, Kalaskar and Gondhalekar owning allegiance to the Sanatan Sanstha, the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and the Shri Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan has revealed that the trio were trying to procure about 70 pistols and about about 2000 rounds of ammunition.
The Maharashtra ATS had arrested Vaibhav Raut from Nalla Sopara and Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar last week from Pune.
They were trying to manufacture bullets at a hardware factory in Satara, but were unsuccessful in their attempts till now. They had manufactured 11 bombs and had accumulated enough material to manufacture at least 30-40 more bombs.
In addition to the above explosives the ATS has recovered at least 20 unfinished pistols or parts of pistols from the three locations at Pune and Maharashtra.
The trio wanted to manufacture 50 bombs by next month, which were to be used to create blasts in different parts of the country.
The trio are part of a hit squad of about 30 persons hand-picked from Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka by the main conspirators whose identity is still a mystery.
The Karnataka SIT investigating the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh feels the main group is headed by a retired Indian Army colonel and three others who are senior members of a well-known right-wing association.
The leads were obtained from the Karnataka SIT. The SIT has arrested 13 persons, 2-3 of them are actively linked to the Sanatan Sanstha. Their interrogation led to the names of 10 others, three of whom were arrested by the ATS last week.
The ATS raids on 10 and 11 August, led to the confiscation of 11 country-made pistols with magazines, an air gun, ten pistol barrels, six pistol magazines, six partially-made pistol bodies, three partially made magazines and several parts of firearms, reported PTI.
Besides, materials used to make bombs, a chopper, six number plates of vehicles, CDs, pen drives, hard discs and handbooks and other literature on bomb-making were also found. The investigators suspect that materials seized were to be used for making IEDs.
Around 16 people, who were considered accomplices of the three accused, were also arrested.
ATS sources told the Indian Express that all three accused blamed each other for bombs and claimed innocence for themselves.
“Raut claimed that he was not aware that they were bombs and that he had kept the consignment for safe-keeping on the request of the other two accused. The other two have been claiming that the explosives were found at Raut’s residence and they had nothing to do with them,” an ATS official told Indian Express.
All the suspects are reportedly linked to the Sanatan Sanstha, which was allegedly responsible for the murder of three rationalists – Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, as well as the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
One of the arrested accused, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from Satara is a active member of the Shri Shiva Pratishthan Hindustan whose chief Sambhaji Bhide had been booked in two criminal cases in connection with the violence near Bhima Koregaon on January 1 by the Pune police.
Gondhalekar was actively involved as an activist with several far-right Hindutva groups including the HJS and is a known sympathizer of the Sanatan Sanstha.
Bhide who has a huge following in interior Maharashtra is held in high respect by PM Narendra Modi as well as Uddhav Thackeray and several RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders. PM Modi has openly and publicly admitted that he considers Bhide his ‘guru‘.